How to Find Peace in a Hectic City Through Meditation
Between working, commuting, and seeing friends, life can feel pretty hectic. I’ve been trying to find some calm amidst the city and a friend recommended meditation. How do I start?
Stressed in the City
Dear Stressed in the City,
Meditation has played a very important role in my life. I used to live in Thailand, where I was a monk at the Dhammakaya temple. Our mission was “world peace through inner peace.” Now I live in Washington, D.C., and have a very busy day ensuring members get their Zipcars, but I’m still able to continue my practice in the hustle and bustle of the city. Here, I find that everyone is always on the run, but I urge finding time to pause. Here’s what I tell people who want to start a meditation practice—let me know how it goes!
Many people think that meditation is complicated or takes a certain level of mastery. In reality, beginning is simple: Sit. The first step is really as easy as sitting down. The key to mindfulness is to pause. So the next time you’re having a hectic day, just stop, pause, and take a seat. It all unfolds from there.
2. Focus on your center.
Once you’ve covered the first step, there is a technique, which is to focus on your center. In the Dhammakaya temple, we like to imagine that there is a crystal ball at the center of your body. Focus on that point and begin what I call the purification process: purify your thoughts through breathing. I guarantee that you will feel something on the first try, but if you aren’t reaching your expectations, be patient. It takes time.
3. Learn to let go.
It’s easy to let your mind wander to work, or errands, or what you’re going to have for dinner—let go of all that. We have a theory in meditation called “monkey mind.” Just as monkeys swing from one branch to another, so do your thoughts. You close your eyes, and before you know it, you’re thinking about hoverboards. It takes practice, but in time, you’ll be able to actually think about…nothing.
4. Pick a setting. (Anywhere.)
Since meditation doesn’t require any physical tools or environment, you can practice anywhere. I have a dedicated room in my apartment, but not everyone can make that space. My preference is a big window overlooking nature, but every person resonates with something different. Some like to practice while commuting on the subway. I worked with someone that liked to meditate in small spaces, especially his car. (Go ahead, try it in a Zipcar—just make sure it’s parked!) There’s no wrong place.
5. Find a community.
Just as many people prefer to do yoga at a studio rather than solo, I like to practice meditation at a center. Many local communities have buildings or groups. How do you choose between the different options in your city? Think about your goals of meditation: Are they religious or spiritual? Are you focused on stress relief or reaching a certain mindset? Look at the mission of the foundation and see if it speaks to you.
6. Make it your own.
Above all, follow your own rules. For instance, how long should you meditate? It’s up to you. Standard practice is an hour a day, but I recommend that you split it up into several sittings, if you’d like. One full hour, two half-hours, or even five minutes at the top of every hour can achieve the same effect. What is the end goal? It’s up to you. I like to repeat a mantra, “clear and bright.” Whatever feels right for you can make for effective meditation.
I’m always interested to hear how meditation affects people’s lives and how they work it into their city environment. Stories? Questions? I want to hear! Tell us in the comments below.